Can RIM stop the blackberry rot?

Research in Motion (RIM) (much like Nokia), have seen their once dominant market position in corporate mobile fall from a great height in the last two years. The company’s seen a huge fall in stock price and more importantly market share and penetration, currently running around circa 8% of market share, with continual quarter upon quarter of declines.

In Q1 2013, RIM are to release their first generation of Blackberry 10 devices.  Blackberry 10 has long been touted as the next big thing from RIM, but will it be enough to arrest the decline of the last 5 years?  Or will the problems they’ve suffered the last year with very embarrassing service outages, a tablet product that was an undeniable flop commercially and the rise of BYO programs finally bring to an end this once unassailable organisation?

Blackberry really brought corporate email and calendaring to the mainstream and was responsible for the wide scale birth of mobility for corporates.  It was secure, it worked well (though let’s not talk about calendar synchronisation), had a proper qwerty keyboard that enabled you to type mails really well for a small mobile device.  It provided predictable mobile and data cost plans from a CFO point of view, removing the spiralling uncertainty of other mobile service offerings. 

Over the last 2 years with the rise and rise of BYOD programs, more and more organisations are opening up user device choice for mobile phones (though not for computers, we’ll cover that another day).  We’ve seen many corporates move from Blackberry onto MDM enabled programs (such as Good technology), whereby they can provide secure, controlled and auditable mail calendaring & intranet services but on a wider portfolio of device choices. Blackberry, whilst once innovative and cool, is now the much maligned device that is no longer in vogue, and doesn’t provide well integrated services or the user experience of Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

Mobile phone technology is still in the main a disposable technology rather than a strategic long term platform choice of something like an organisations CRM platform.  Every 2 years or so we dispose of these older devices, and move onto the fashion item of the moment.  iPhone has transformed the user experience of mobile devices, initiating the wide scale improvements we’ve seen in user interfaces and provided a benchmark for ease of use.  BB10 has a tough act to follow as it looks to improve on previous incarnations and meet the expectations of its once adoring user base.  With a market increasingly driven by the cool factor and demanding constant innovation though, RIM needs to address the perception that in the last few years they have really failed to deliver in either of these two areas with any real success.

With the increasing rise and domination of Android in the wider mobile phone sector,  Apple establishing itself as the premium brand product of choice and Microsoft finally having developed a corporately integrated secure mobile phone platform with Windows Phone 8 that end users doesn’t want to set fire to (Windows mobile 6 anyone?), what is it going to take to stop the rot for Blackberry? 

RIM’s market USP’s are no longer unique.  The network providers now provide good data tariffs at fixed prices, and importantly at very affordable prices.  It’s possible to provide a compliant secure corporate experience via an MDM product, and the mobility space is fast moving onto data sharing across multiple devices, integrating into corporately application delivery eco systems, none of which Blackberry can do on any other platform than their own (despite what they say).

RIM really can only rely on some really compelling corporate integration features, opening up their technology stack to support further mobile device platforms to be managed and secured and probably offer their devices at an extremely low price to be able to maintain any level of corporate adoption.  They’ve got to find ways to get developers to bolster the platforms application portfolios considerably (currently around 60k apps – a long way short of IOS, Android or even Windows mobile) or the long term sustainability of RIM lies in the balance.

It appears RIM have a long way to go to turn around the oil tanker, (just look how long it’s taken Nokia to get to the bottom of the curve), so let’s hope (for their sake) that BB10 offers some inspiration for the world at large to remain with them.  Right now, if you’re currently reviewing your approach to corporate corporately provided devices and like most you’re a Microsoft house then Windows Phone 8 looks like a very interesting proposition indeed.  For wider corporate choice, BYO still remains the fruit fly feasting on the remains of the once ripe and plump blackberry.

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